KOCHI: Disputing the figures of Ockhi victims released by Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma in the Assembly, leaders of fishermen associations said there was no clear picture about the gravity of the disaster even two-and-a-half months after the deadly cyclone ravaged coastal Kerala.As per the figures released by the minister, as many as 51 people died due to cyclone and 103 are missing.According to Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi president Charles George, 17 boats had capsized in the sea during the cyclone. Around 184 people had gone missing in the sea and there was no serious effort from the Central and state governments to find out the missing persons, he said.
“As many as six boats that ventured into the sea before the cyclone struck had capsized. There were 64 fishermen in these boats and the authorities could not collect any information regarding their whereabouts. “As per our information, the fishermen locked themselves inside the cabin after the huge waves triggered by the cyclone crashed into the boats. However, the boats capsized and the fishermen could not escape. If they were not locked up inside the cabin, the bodies would have floated,” said Charles George.
Among the missing persons, 12 are from Kerala, five from Assam and 167 people from Tamil Nadu. As many as 11 boats from Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram also went missing in the sea, he said.
“We had submitted petitions to the Prime Minister and Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh to deploy submarines to scour the ocean bed for sunken boats and missing persons. But no action was taken,” said Charles George.
“The governments of Kerala and Tamil Nadu should conduct talks and prepare the list of victims and missing persons. The relatives of the victims are waiting for the compensation declared by the government. The amount can be distributed only if the government declares the list of victims and missing persons. There were Keralites in the boats that ventured into the sea from the Tamil Nadu coast and Tamilians in boats that set off from the Kerala coast. The identity of the victims can be confirmed only after both states declare the list of victims and compare it,” he said.
According to All Kerala Mechanised Fishing Boat Operators Association general secretary Joseph Xavier Kalappurackal, 17 boats that ventured into the sea from Kochi for deep sea fishing had capsized off Lakshadweep coast. “There is no information regarding the whereabouts of the fishermen in these boats. There were people from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Assam in these boats,” he said.Responding to the complaints raised by the fishermen, Fisheries Department deputy director S Mahesh said the list released by the minister was exclusively of Keralites. “We have collected information about the victims and missing persons. Some fishing boats registered here had gone missing, but the fishermen in these boats were Tamilians,” he said.